Shopping Cart


Christmas Feast

Thursday, 9 December 2010  | Simon Holt

I adore food and I love Christmas.  Fortunately, the two go hand in hand.  After all, what’s Yuletide without a feast?  


In my family tradition, it’s the Christmas table that outdoes all others.  There is Grandma’s rich Christmas pudding, oven roasted turkey and baked glazed hams; those moist mince tarts, cold chicken salads and copious amounts of seafood; there’s red and green M & Ms, Aunt Audrey’s Christmas cake, shortbreads and the ubiquitous pavlova piled high with thick cream and summer berries. 


Let’s face it, whatever makes it onto your Christmas table, here in affluent middle Australia ‘tis is the season to eat twice your body weight in food and to drink more fluid than can possibly be good for you. It’s the time for lavish spreads, one after the other, and voluminous leftovers piled precariously in the fridge.  There’s simply no end to the culinary excess of the Christmas season.  That said, as much as I like this apparent mingling of spirituality and food, from a biblical perspective I have to confess the relationship is strained. 


When it comes to life at the table, I usually find the Gospels a source of great encouragement.  After all, Jesus did a lot of eating.  A ‘glutton and drunkard’ his detractors called him as they watched him move from dinner party to dinner party.  But look more closely at the Christmas narratives and there’s simply not a turkey in sight; not even a solitary chicken wing. 


From Zechariah’s angelic encounter in the temple to the shepherd’s hurried dash to the manger; from Joseph’s dream of a miraculous conception to the holy family’s midnight detour to Galilee—feasting just doesn’t get a guernsey.  The only hints of the culinary are found in the angel’s words to Zechariah regarding the unexpected birth of his son John who “will never take wine or other fermented drink” (Lk 1.15) and in Mary’s song of praise to the God who “has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty” (Lk 1.53).  It’s hardly a rousing endorsement of my privileged festive binge.


Of course read in retrospect, the Christmas narratives are full of things worth celebrating.  This story of Immanuel, ‘God with us’ (Matt 1.23), is indeed one of exceedingly good news.  The Incarnation signals a renewed relationship between God and humankind, between heaven and earth, and between the peoples of the earth.  A bit of feasting on our part seems entirely appropriate.


The tragedy of the contemporary Christmas feast lies in the fact that we’ve become consumed by it.  We’ve lost sight of its purpose.  In his provocative book, Food for Life, J. Shannon Jung argues that as the gift of God, food is one of the most daily and tangible reminders of all that is sacred.  However, our joy in the sharing of it is routinely diminished by two common disconnections.  Firstly, we are disconnected from its source, the Giver of the gift.  Secondly, we are disconnected from our fellow human beings and the earth itself.  In essence, we are deprived of both delight and sharing, the two gifts most profoundly associated with the feast.  A feast disconnected is prone to food’s dark side, the shadows of gluttony and self-interest


The real joy of Christmas is found in connection, connection to God and each other.  At its best, the Christmas feast reminds us of the Source of life and our solidarity with all of those who share that life with us.  It is never an end in itself.  If the absence of eating in the Christmas narratives reminds us of anything, it is that the Christmas feast is secondary, never primary.  The Christmas season rotates primarily around relationship and its renewal in Christ. It’s food and drink that lubricate the cogs. 

Got something to add?

  • Your Comment


Online Resources

subscribe to engage.mail

follow us

Latest Articles